Top news stories of 2021

CAPE FEAR AREA, NC (WWAY) — As we prepare to enter the new year, we look back on 2021. The year was full of attention grabbing headlines and stories WWAY covered.

A tragic start to the year, with a deadly tornado ripping through parts of southern Brunswick County on February 15th. The twister left three people dead, and 10 injured, and an entire community in mourning. Many across the Cape Fear banded together to help the hardest hit communities, including Ocean Ridge Plantation.

Governor Roy Cooper visited following the storm to survey the damage.

“We need to look at what happened here and learn from it, and see if systems can be improved, to try to get people as much warning as possible,” said Governor Roy Cooper.

Another story making headlines in the early part of 2021 were COVID-19 vaccines. Hundreds of people lined up after a statewide push by the governor and state health officials to get the shot. The three types were made available to the general public before mid-year, with booster doses now available.

Vaccines weren’t the only thing causing long lines in 2021 in May, people also lined up hoping to get gas after Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency after the country’s largest fuel pipeline, Colonial Pipeline, fell victim to a cyberattack.

A story that touched the heart of many across the nation, and here in the Cape Fear, was about Gabby Petito. The 22-year-old was reported missing in September, her body found after her fiancé Brian Laundrie returned home to Florida alone from a cross-country road trip. Petito once lived in Carolina Beach, and worked in Wilmington at Smoke On The Water for nearly 2 years. Those who knew her expressed how deeply hurt they were to learn of her death.

“She’s not just a name, she’s not just a case, she was a person, and she was very special to a lot of people, and many of us here,” said Lara Witschen, Smoke On The Water General Manager.

Another story that made local and national headlines, a viral video showing a Pender County family’s security camera footage of a rabid bobcat attack. The video shows the animal attacking a woman, Kristi Wade, as she walked to the car with her pet cat in a carrier case. her husband, Happy Wade, grabbed the bobcat and threw it into the yard. The bobcat was eventually killed, and both the husband and wife were given rabies shots.

“It was very scary, it makes me think a little bit when I walk out in my front door to water my flowers on the porch. Never had thought about it, probably shouldn’t anymore, –you know this was a freak thing,” said Kristi Wade.
Also looking back on some of the lighter stories that made headlines over the past year in the Cape Fear.

2021 began with a big catch by a 3 man fishing crew of “The Flying Brick”, catching a 660 pound Blue Fin Tuna in the waters off Southport. When the massive fish was caught, it wasn’t known how much it would sell for, but in 2019 a similar sized one sold for $1.8 million.

“You just try and hope. It’s ten percent skill, 90 percent luck a lot of times,” said John Dosher, one of the three fishermen.

The city of Wilmington celebrated the opening of the riverfront park and amphitheater. after nearly two years of construction, a ribbon-cutting was held July 4 weekend.

The 6.6-acre plot of land in downtown Wilmington is home to a large concert venue, green rooms for performers, festival space, gardens, playgrounds, and an interactive water feature. Thousands have attended concerts and events since its opening.

Wilmington and surrounding areas also reaping the benefits of the film industry making a strong return. Governor Roy Cooper visited EUE/Screen Gems Studios, touting good news for the film industry statewide, reporting Filmmakers producing projects in North Carolina are on track to invest a record-breaking amount of $409 million in 2021.

“I would come and meet with people, who would come from all over the city to talk with me about how distraught they were about the lack of film – television production, and how it was drastically affecting their businesses, and their families, and so bringing that back helps to build those industries back up. It helps bring more money into the area, and not only that it helps put North Carolina on the map,” said Gov. Roy Cooper.

Another 2021 story highlighting great strides being made in the Cape Fear, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust purchased Hutaff Island located in southern Pender County, the last privately-owned undeveloped barrier island in North Carolina.

The island serves as the first line of defense against storms for local communities, and provides critical habitat for threatened species like sea turtles, beach-nesting birds, and rare plants. It is now protected in by the Coastal Land Trust and managed in partnership with Audubon North Carolina.

Categories: Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Local, New Hanover, Pender, Top Stories